Asthma is a fairly common condition that affects a person’s airways, causing them to struggle to breathe. Typically, an asthma condition will be exasperated by “triggers”.
When an individual suffering from severe asthma comes in contact with an irritant that acts as a trigger, dust for example, ordinarily the body reacts in three different ways.
To begin with, the muscles surrounding the airways contract and tighten, which makes the airways become much narrower.
The airways lining also becomes inflamed and swollen, and finally, the body often also produces additional phlegm or mucus, which can affect breathing even more.
Combine all of the above together and you have the perfect recipe for one breathless experience.
Fortunately, today we have a number of asthma treatments currently available, and one of which is Oxygen Therapy – which we are going to be looking at in today’s article.
In This Article ...
What Is Oxygen Therapy?
Oxygen therapy is sometimes simply known as O2 therapy, and it is a fairly common and effective medical treatment that is used to help treat patients dealing with breathing difficulties.
Oxygen is essential for survival, without oxygen, the human body would break down and die in a matter of minutes. The air that we breathe every day, the same air that we are breathing right now, contains 21% oxygen.
Oxygen therapy is basically a treatment whereby oxygen is administered at concentrations greater than those found in the air that we breathe.
How Does It Work?
Oxygen therapy works by increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood, helping to combat low blood oxygen levels.
When you undergo oxygen therapy, the oxygen will need to be prescribed to you by a doctor.
A test will be carried out by your doctor to determine how much oxygen you require each minute, and then it will come down to how much you need.
Normally it will be prescribed to you in the form of a standard oxygen concentrator, which is a machine equipped with a motor that can be battery-powered, or mains fed.
It takes in air and filters out the other gases, leaving just the oxygen, which the patient will breathe in via a face mask or a nasal cannula.
These also come in smaller portable sizes for when you have to leave the home.
Purpose Of Oxygen Therapy
There are many purposes of oxygen therapy, but today as we are talking about asthma, we’ll stick with asthma and asthma-related conditions.
24/7 we are taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide.
If you struggle to breathe properly, however, and take in insufficient amounts of oxygen, like you do when you suffer from asthma, you will find that blood oxygen levels will drop, which can be very dangerous.
This is where hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for oxygenation may be prescribed.
In simple terms, the primary purpose of oxygen therapy is to simply saturate tissues in the body with oxygen, where oxygen levels may previously have been dangerously low.
Breathing in higher concentrations of oxygen will help saturate the tissues in your body with oxygen, especially in the blood.
This, in turn, will ensure that the body and the countless physiological processes carried out by the body, function correctly and effectively.
It can also prevent damage to the brain and heart, as a lack of oxygen can result in a wide range of potentially fatal side-effects, including strokes.
Oxygen Therapy Methods and Types
There are many different types of oxygen therapy methods currently in existence.
As we can’t cover each one in great detail, we can look at some typical examples of common oxygen therapy methods, especially where bronchial asthma is concerned.
A few common oxygen therapy methods include:
1- Oxygen cylinders
Oxygen cylinders work especially well when it comes to oxygen administration during asthma.
These are ordinarily used if a person requires oxygen for short periods of time, I.E during an acute asthma attack, or after a similar illness.
The oxygen, in this case, is breathed in via a nasal cannula or a face mask.
2- Ambulatory oxygen
Ambulatory oxygen, AKA portable oxygen is basically a smaller, more compact-sized oxygen cylinder that is designed specifically to be used while out and about.
These portable cylinders are ideal because they can deliver the oxygen in a wide range of flow rates, though you would need to be assessed by your doctor to determine whether or not an ambulatory portable oxygen cylinder would be beneficial.
When full, these devices are light in weight, weighing in at just 5lbs, and provide an average of two hours of oxygen.
3- Oxygen concentrator machines
As mentioned previously, oxygen concentrator generator machines are most commonly used as part of oxygen therapy.
These are normally prescribed when the patient needs increased oxygen intake for a large percentage of the day, and that includes while asleep.
The machine runs from the mains, or can sometimes be battery powered and it takes in air, filters it, and leaves nothing but the oxygen, which the patient then breathes in via a nasal cannula or an oxygen face mask.
The only downside of using these asthma oxygen machines is that, as it is mains fed, in the event of a power cut, a backup source of oxygen would be required.
In addition to the above, liquid oxygen drops and oxygen supplements are also sometimes used for certain patients to administer oxygen therapy.
You can also add plants that are good for asthmatics and can help improve the air quality by trapping the harmful toxins and supplying more humidity & oxygen.
How Does Oxygen Therapy Help Asthma Patients?
The airways are the tubes responsible for carrying air into and out of the lungs, so keeping them fit, healthy, and in full working order is highly beneficial.
Asthma causes inflammation in the airways and the surrounding muscles to contract and tighten which makes it difficult to breathe. It can also result in wheezing and coughing.
Oxygenation or oxygen administration help in cutting back on the dangers associated with low blood oxygen levels in the first place.
This is majorly required and prescribed when a person suffers from life-threatening asthma or other complex respiratory troubles.
With oxygen therapy, however, the condition is treated and managed greatly as the lungs become flooded with essential oxygen, which greatly reduces the negative side-effects brought on by deadly asthma.
Oxygen Therapy Guidelines And Side Effects
Finally, before we bring the proceedings to a close, we shall finish up by looking at a few oxygen therapy guidelines and side effects.
To begin with, when it comes to guidelines, you should always speak to your doctor who will be able to advise you on exactly how much oxygen you require, and which form of oxygen therapy may be the most beneficial to you.
You should also never exceed the recommended daily intake of oxygen, or skip treatments, no matter how good you feel, or how busy you may be.
As beneficial as oxygen therapy is, there are still a series of side effects that you will need to be wary of.
A few common ones include:
Bleeding nose – If you find yourself predisposed to nose bleeds, you’ll often find that in the event of oxygen therapy is administered via a nasal cannula, you may experience nose bleeds from time to time, so it is worth being very gentle when inserting the cannula.
Headaches – Some users also experience headaches for a short period after receiving oxygen therapy, especially in the morning.
If you are receiving oxygen therapy when you sleep, waking up with a headache in the morning is certainly a possibility.
Some people are fine, whereas others do seem to struggle with headaches, so just bear that in mind.
Nasal dryness – Finally, the last potential side effect of oxygen therapy for asthma treatment is nasal dryness.
Again, this is far more likely to occur in people receiving oxygen therapy in the form of a nasal cannula.
This can be uncomfortable and can eventually become very sore, which is why moisturizing agents specifically designed for the nasal passages are often used to soothe and lubricate the nasal passages.
Skin irritation – One of the most common side-effects associated with oxygen therapy is skin irritation.
This occurs where the oxygen is administered, so whether you use a nasal cannula or a face mask, the plastic material can become slick with moisture, which can cause itching, sweating, and perhaps even very minor pain or discomfort.
Face masks aren’t quite so bad because they are easy to remove, whereas nasal cannulas aren’t as simple, so having a sore, itchy, and tender nose is certainly a possibility if you are receiving oxygen therapy to help treat and manage your asthma.